Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim

23 Dec

Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim

Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim

Mary V. Dearborn

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0618128069

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Peggy Guggenheim emerges in Mistress of Modernism as the ultimate self-invented woman, a cultural mover and shaker who broke away from her poor-little-rich-girl origins to shape a life for herself as the enfant terrible of the art world. Peggy's visionary Art of This Century gallery in New York, which brought together the European surrealist artists with the American abstract expressionists, was an epoch-shaking "happening" at the center of its time.
Dearborn's unprecedented access to the Guggenheim family, friends, and papers contributes rich insight to Peggy's traumatic childhood in German-Jewish "Our Crowd" New York, her self-education in the ways of art and artists, her caustic battles with other art-collecting Guggenheims, and her legendary sexual appetites: her lovers included Max Ernst, Samuel Beckett, and Marcel Duchamp, to name a mere few. Here too is a poignant portrait of Peggy's last years as l'ultima dogaressa -- the last duchess -- in her palazzo in Venice, where her collection still draws thousands of visitors every year.
Mistress of Modernism is the first definitive biography of a woman whose wit, passion, and provocative legacy come compellingly to life.











worked at the radical bookstore Sunwise Turn. O'Keeffe's was an imperious and rather august presence, and Peggy's shyness made it unlikely that they would have talked freely when O'Keeffe appeared at her gallery, despite many points of connection. Peggy lamented often that she should have left the number of women artists at thirty. For, in an interesting development, Art of This Century sent Max to each of the selected women's studios to choose the piece to be included in the show. Quite

hanging are numerous, and most are wrong. Legend has it that Pollock painted the mural in one fell swoop the day before the opening, from dusk one day to dusk the next, and that he rolled up the canvas and carried it, with the stretcher, to Peggy's apartment building on the day of the show. But the paint would not have been sufficiently dry for him to do so. Also, a twenty-by-eight-foot canvas saturated with paint would have been too heavy for one man to carry—not to mention the oversized

became Seliger's lifelong friend. Breton, "who with his Olympian manner gave the impression of gentle calmness," took out a pen and wrote down for Seliger, in his usual green ink, names of galleries in Europe to which he could send photographs of his work. Seliger had invited his high school art teacher to the opening and was proud to introduce the surprised woman to Mondrian. Though reviews were mixed—Edward Alden Jewell found the shapes "bizarre" and the colors "bilious"—Peggy was dead set on

kneeling at her feet. It is an understatement to say that alcohol fueled many of these parties; in fact, it seemed at times that liquor was the lifeblood of 1920s Paris. As William Carlos Williams wrote, "Whisky is to the imagination of Paris of that time as milk was to a baby." Prohibition, of course, was in force in America, and freedom from its reach no doubt encouraged many American visitors to overdo. But Laurence, by any standard, had a special talent for getting noisily drunk. Through

Peggy quarreled with Emily, then living in London on Oakley Street. Emily had asked Peggy to make an allowance for Phyllis Jones, and Peggy somewhat grudgingly agreed to provide $85 every month. She also arranged to send Phyllis to America for a visit, as her friend's spirits had been low. But to Emily's mind, the ship on which Peggy booked Phyllis's passage was not expensive enough, and she evidently told Phyllis to turn down the offer. Peggy wrote Emily an angry letter: "Having botched up all

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